DOJ junks criminal raps vs. Tunisian with alleged ISIS links

MANILA The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday dismissed the criminal complaint filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines against an alleged member of the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who was nabbed by authorities last month.

In a seven-page resolution signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter L. Ong, the agency dismissed the illegal possession of explosive devices and firearms complaint filed by Regional Police Intelligence Operations Unit (RPIOU) of the National Capital Region Police Office against Tunisian national Fehmi Lassqued and his Filipina live-in partner Anabel Salipada for lack of merit.

After a careful review and evaluation of the evidence submitted by the parties, the undersigned finds no probable cause to charge respondents for violations of RA 10591 and RA 9516, read the DOJ resolution approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Rassenell Rex Gingoyon and Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr.

Basic and well-established is the rule that the party alleging has the burden of substantiating his allegation and any declaration or assertion not so substantiated is, at best, a self-serving statement or declaration which is inadmissible in evidence for being hearsay, it stressed.

The two were arrested in Ermita, Manila last Feb. 16 by joint operatives of the PNP and the Philippine Army, pursuant to a search warrant issued by the Makati City Regional Trial Court.

The charge sheet signed by Supt. Carlito Narag Jr., RPIOU chief, sought the indictment of the suspects for violations of RA 10591 and RA 9516.

It cited as evidence the explosive devices seized from the couple during their arrest, including four pipes, two batteries, three capacitors, two integrated circuits, three battery clips, and 11 resistors and also the .45-caliber pistol and ammunitions recovered from them.

Both Lassqued and Salipada denied the allegations in separate counter-affidavits filed through the assistance of public attorneys.

In his counter-affidavit, Lassqued said contrary to the police's claim, he was not arrested in Ermita, Manila but in Ayala Triangle on Feb. 16 while he was taking his cigarette break from his Spanish class.

Salipada, on the other hand also denied owning the explosive devices and the firearm. She said when the police searched their apartment in Manila she was taken and held outside the apartment.

Ong said that among the evidence presented, both the suspects and the arresting officers admitted that the five photographs of the seized items taken inside Room 409 but did not include the arresting officers and the suspects.

However, Ong noted that two other photographs which showed the suspects with the seized items were not taken inside Room 409 due to the difference between the backgrounds of said photographs and earlier five photographs.

Furthermore, a perusal of the two photographs labeled as 'Photograph of the arrested suspect and the confiscated evidence' suggest that these pictures were taken in a place other than Room 409, since their background are different from those in the five photographs without respondent Lassoued, Ong said.

This supports the story of respondents that Fehmi Lassoued was not present inside Room 409, on February 16, 2018, during the implementation of SW M. 18-003, and further support Fehmi Lassoued's story that he was later brought to an unfamiliar room with the seized articles, he pointed out.

The prosecutor also learned that Salipada was brought by authorities to the Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center on Feb. 17 for medical examination while Lassoued was taken at the Army General Hospital in Fort Andres Bonifacio on February 18.

Finally, the fact that both respondents underwent medical examination at two different places and on two different occasions suggests that they were arrested in separate places at different time, he said.

On the photos of the seized explosive devices and firearms, the military and police said it was taken at the house of Lassqued and Salipada.

However, the DOJ resolution noted that the background of the picture where the seized items were taken is different from the couple's apartment.

A perusal of the photographs suggest that these pictures were taken in a place other than [the apartment of [Lassqued and Salipada] since their background are different, the resolution noted.

Source: Philippine News Agency